What if a business supported one customer over you all based on how you looked?
Stay tuned for a story of not so veiled racism, a teachable moment (question mark) and the rise of an online community.
This is the Customer Experience Storytime tale of…. The Man Who Should Not Move
And so it begins…
The aroma, the clarity, the head, the smoothness, the dryness, the bitterness… all the makings of a good beer. IPA, Lager, Stout, Ale, the love of beer and all its varieties has inspired a booming craft beer industry right across North America. It’s great news all around for the creators, the makers and the drinkers of this frothy beverage.
From this industry, as with many industries these days, a niche group of thought leaders and influencers have grown to prominence. Those that not only are knowledgeable about the product, but are curious, opinionated, creative and multi-media savvy. And they also have a growing and engaged community around them, built on a mutual love of all things craft beer.
David Singh was one such gentlemen. He had grown his influencer reputation to the point where he had a sizeable, passionate group of fans and was being asked to be on the cover of brewing magazines. Though he loved travelling across his local geography, it was his own small community that he was most proud of, to visit and to talk about.
This particular weekend, there was one well-known brewpub that David hadn’t tried for quite some time that he was curious to return to. With a reputation for unique and fun seasonal, handcrafted beer, he was excited to check them out again.
If it had only been about the beer, this story would have gone quite differently.
David made his way to a group of high tables in the middle of the brewpub floor. This collection of light wooden tables and darkly painted chairs were clustered together, in no particular pattern or system.
He sat down and proceeded to order from the server. After getting his beer and savouring it for a while, he noticed the look of another man standing at another table beside him. He was speaking to what obviously looked like the manager while gesturing in David’s direction.
What quickly came to light was the man’s refusal to sit down based on the presence of David. David was not sure what was wrong. He hadn’t done anything other than sit, quietly and enjoy his beer.
The manager made her way over to him to discuss the situation.
“Sir, I hate to ask but could you do me a favour? Our regular is feeling uncomfortable with you and is refusing to sit. Could I ask that you please move over a spot?”
David quickly went from questioning to shock to anger. He was stunned this was happening and then infuriated that it had.
David is an Indo-Canadian man who has grown an impressive salt and pepper coloured beard, a signature of his influencer brand. His appearance, only striking due to the fantastic-ness of his facial hair, was pretty simple. A black tshirt, a pair of jeans and sneakers. Really no cause for alarm, much less a refusal to also sit in the same restaurant.
Angered by the situation and frustrated by the brewpub manager’s response, David drank his beer, put his money on the table and left.
But not before taking two photos. One of the racist regular. And one of the bar manager.
As an online influencer, he then did what most anyone would do in his situation… He posted about it on social media. There, he stated how he would never return again due to a regular being too uncomfortable with him because of the way he looked, while also presenting both of the pictures he took. One of the guest. One of the manager.
The comments from his comment started flooding in. Many of which directly mentioned the local brewpub.
“That is incredible that people can be so unbelievably insulting. We got your back.”
“I’m sorry that happened the pub should be beyond ashamed”
“Thanks for the warning, I will never give that pub my business.”
And then more comments piled on to those comments. Conversations back and forth. Direct messages to David. Until…
David posted in the comments that the general manager of the brewpub has asked him to give him a call, which he would do later that today. He promised to update everyone on what was said.
A day or so passed. More comments added to older comments.
And then, David posted on his social media for his community to read.
He shared that he had spoken with the general manager yesterday (David included his full name) and that the manager apologized.
Further he told David a few other things.
- He said something like this should never happen
- He admitted his manager did not handle the matter correctly
- He stated this would be a “teaching moment” for the floor manager
- He would not be firing her, even if, as he put it, “the internet is calling for her head.”
- She has worked for the brewpub for three years, and the general manager has known her longer than that, and she is a great employee.
David also wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions. First, that he believes the manager should be fired but he understands it’s the GM’s decision and business and he knows her best. He also advised the general manager of the many brewpub options available locally and that he wouldn’t return.
The response from his online community? Support. Praise. And a few “what the hells”. In short, they took their beer influencer’s side and vowed to make alternate choices than this particular brewpub.
And that ends the story of… The Man Who Should Not Move
Friend Filter aka How is this Perceived by the Customer?
Through the eyes of these customers, let’s look at the emotional impact of this customer experience.
In this case, I’m not going to discuss the impacts of the obviously racist thoughts and actions of the other patron but rather how the business, the brewpub, made David feel.
Simply, undervalued. First, it was in the pub when the manager chose to encourage the regular customer’s inappropriate behavior and asked David to move. He had done nothing wrong. Was a paying customer. And had a right to sit and enjoy his beverage. Unfortunately, the manager, and by extension the pub, didn’t stand up for him. They chose to placate someone obviously in the wrong. Second, they didn’t engage with David or his community. Rather than engaging in the already public conversation to apologize for the behavior of his restaurant and how it would never happen again, the brewpub GM takes it offline and points a finger at “the internet” for its behavior. Thankfully, they did listen and did apologize so David did get some closure on the incident.
What worked or Could Have Been Done Better
From this tale, what’s the one thing your business can take away to better serve your customers.
Stand Up for Your Customers, and Your Employees
1) Do What’s Morally Right – As any part of your business, you represent the brand. The entire organization. So think about how you want your business to be remembered and known for. Be the good guy. In this instance, the manager should have offered the offended customer another table or seat or informed them that this table was the only one available.
2) Support Your Staff – your staff will make mistakes. From front-line to management, they won’t always make the right call but it’s important to have their back. Your team will always work harder for you if they feel like they’re supported. Yes, the manager here certainly screwed up and made the wrong call in the moment, but the general manager recognized this wasn’t typical behavior for a long serving staff member and would ensure it never happened again.
3) Tell Your Story – David’s online community, though not what would be considered “viral” with their comments, were certainly adding to the situation with emotion and support. Thankfully David did share the brewpub’s side of the story from their private conversation but it’s always best to share your story, even if the community don’t agree with it. An apology, willingness to address the situation and listen to current and future customers will go a long way to addressing the social media concern.
Morale of the Story: Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated
Or better, the Platinum Rule as explained by Dave Kerpen, author of the book The Art of People: Treat Others How They Want to be Treated.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would they want to be received be engaged with? How would they want to be treated in a particular situation? By treating your customers as friends you want to have and keep, you’ll have a better idea of how to react.
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